The Brisbane Lions recovered from the loss of ruckman Stefan Martin to a sickening hit from Steven May, to take the QClash by 13 points, for their first win of the season.
The Lions scored 14.23 (107) against the Suns 14.10 (94) in front of 20,041 fans at the Gabba and only the hosts wasteful nature in front of goal led to a closer result than should have been the case.
With a point separating the sides going into the last quarter, Irishman Pearce Hanley proved the crucial man, adding 11 possessions and snapping his second goal of the game for the decisive goal, to deservedly earn the Marcus Ashcroft Medal.
His heroics will be overshadowed by the ugly incident in the second quarter when Martin was left unconscious after being blindsided by a brutal bump from a flying May.
Happily, Martin was back watching the game in the dugout in the third quarter but this is unlikely to afford May clemency from a lengthy ban from the type of hit rarely seen in the modern game.
The flashpoint occurred just before halftime, which the Lions went into eight points down, but this seemed to spur the home side on in the second half as they managed to turn their statistical dominance into a deserved lead.
The defeat is the Suns first of 2016 and aside from key forward Tom Lynch few of their stars shone in the local derby, with Gary Ablett visibly frustrated at not being able to have a great impact on the contest, despite his 24 possessions.
Lynch again showed why he is now regarded as one of the premier key forwards in the competition with five goals including three in the first quarter – his opener being an unerring kick from 50 metres after a stunning mark in the left pocket.
Errant kicking dogged the Lions throughout, but especially in the second quarter, when they kicked 1.9.
Ryan Lester and Lewis Taylor were particularly guilty of spurning chances that would have left Justin Leppitsch fuming had they not ran over the Suns in the last quarter.
Lions coach Justin Leppitsch was happy the Martin-May incident occurred just before the long break so he could ensure his side were focused in the second half.
“I’m glad it was 40 seconds before halftime because I got a chance to grab them and recompose them and just say the way to redeem this for Stef was by continually attacking the ball and not the man and I think the boys did that,” Leppitsch said.
“It was a win of character. Things weren’t going our way in terms of shots on goal again – a bit of a broken record – but we persisted and didn’t let that disappointment get a hold of us, so I’m proud of the boys.
“It would have been very disappointing if we had walked off the ground not winning after having a game where you felt you were much better than your opposition.”
Eade said he did not feel his side took the game lightly, but was particularly disappointed at being out-battled in a match where the Lions led the contested possession count 154-132.
“I’d like to think it wasn’t complacency,” Eade said.
“I asked the guys and they don’t think it was. I don’t know if it was just feeling flat.
“Knowing the guys for 18 months I wouldn’t think they would have got ahead of themselves.
“Probably the contested ball and loose ball count is the most disappointing (statistic), not getting in there to support your mate.”